April 11 – May 18, 2019
This year, the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center’s eighth annual Contemporary Photography Competition and Exhibition garnered 577 submissions from across the globe. The winning artists, chosen to showcase photographic narratives through concurrent solo exhibitions, are Arielle Bobb-Willis, presenting At Zephyr, and Claire A. Warden, presenting Mimesis.
This year’s competition was juried by Lucy Gallun, Associate Curator in the Department of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. Gallun also selected for commendation as Honorable Mentions portfolios by the following eight artists: Judyta Grudzien (NY), Arash Fewzee (NY), Jennifer Ray (KS), Shawn Records (OR), Luther Konadu (Manitoba CA), Nancy Floyd (OR), Nidaa Aboulhosn (NY) and Mike Osborne (TX).
Born and raised in New York City, with pit stops in South Carolina and New Orleans, photographer Arielle Bobb-Willis has been using the camera for nearly a decade as a tool of empowerment. Battling with depression from an early age, Bobb-Willis found solace behind the lens and has developed a visual language that speaks to the complexities of life: the beautiful, the strange, belonging, isolation, and connection. Inspired by masters like Jacob Lawrence and Benny Andrews, Bobb-Willis applies a ‘painterly’ touch to her photography by documenting people in compromising and disjointed positions as a way to highlight these complexities. Toeing the line between fashion and contemporary art, her use of bright vivid colors is therapeutic and speaks to a desire to claim power and joy in moments of sadness, confusion or confinement. Her photographs are all captured in cities, from the South to North, East to West. Bobb-Willis travels throughout the US as a way of finding ‘home’ in any grassy knoll or city sidewalk, reminding us to stay connected and grounded during life’s transitional moments.
Born in Montreal, Quebec, Claire A. Warden is an artist working in Phoenix, Arizona whose work explores intersecting ideas of identity, the other, and the psychology of knowledge and power. She received her BFA in Photography and BA in Art History from Arizona State University. Raised in a family with a diverse ethnic background, Warden uses photography to reflect on the fluidity and abstract nature of identity. She employs a cameraless photographic process on negative film, which incorporates saliva and mark-making. The negatives are scanned and the final images are produced as large-scale pigment prints that evoke systems of the natural sciences—microscopic, topographic, and celestial—and allegorize the complex systems that make up the self.
Lucy Gallun is Associate Curator in the Department of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. She has curated or co-curated several recent exhibitions at MoMA including Being: New Photography 2018; Unfinished Conversations: New Work from the Collection (2017); Nan Goldin: The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (2016-17); Ocean of Images: New Photography 2015 (2015-16); Soldier, Spectre, Shaman: The Figure and the Second World War (2015-16); and Art on Camera: Photographs by Shunk-Kender, 1960–1971 (2015). Gallun is also co-editor of Photography at MoMA, a three-volume history of photography at the Museum. Prior to joining the Department of Photography at MoMA, Gallun was the Whitney Lauder Curatorial Fellow at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Philadelphia, and she was a Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellow at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program (ISP).
The Contemporary Photography Competition & Exhibition VIII is made possible by the generous support of The Honickman Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.